Parents, caregivers, and friends of UAH students are sometimes interested in the services we offer at the Counseling Center. Because people often go to their parents or caregivers when they are having difficulty, you may be the first to know of a problem situation. When this happens, please remember that we are here to help students; encourage your son or daughter to call and make an appointment to talk with a counselor.

We understand that it can be frustrating and painful to watch your student struggle and feel like there's nothing you can do to help.  You are not alone. Our counselors can assist you with your concerns about students by offering guidance about supportive and effective communication about counseling.  Feel free to call us at 256.824.6203.

How to Approach Your Student

If you choose to approach your student with your concerns about his or well-being, you might consider some of the following suggestions (adapted from The George Washington University's Counseling Center).

TALK to your student in private when both of you have the time and are not rushed or preoccupied. Give your student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help him or her feel cared about as an individual and more confident about what to do. If you have initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms. For example, "You said you've been absent from class lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Why haven't you been going to class? You should be more concerned about your grades."

LISTEN to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what your student has told you. Try to include both content and feelings ("It sounds like you're not accustomed to such a big campus and you're feeling left out of things.") Let your student talk.

GIVE HOPE. Assure your student that things can get better. It is important to help him or her realize there are options, and that things will not always seem hopeless. Suggest resources: friends, family, clergy, professionals on campus, other campus resources. You may not be able to solve your student's problems yourself, but you can assist him or her receive the help that is needed.

AVOID judging, evaluating, and criticizing even if your student asks your opinion. Such behavior may push the student away from you and from the help he or she needs. It is important to respect your student's value system, even if you don't agree with it.

REFER: A referral for counseling may be made when you your student's difficulties appear to go beyond your ability to help. In making a referral it is important to point out that: 1) help is available and 2) seeking such help is a sign of strength and courage rather than a sign of weakness or failure. It may be helpful to point out that seeking professional help for other problems (medical, legal, car problems, etc.) is considered good judgment and an appropriate use of resources. For example, "If you had a broken arm you would go to a doctor rather than try to set it yourself." If you can, prepare your student for what they might expect if they follow your suggestion. Tell them what you know about the referral person or services.

FOLLOW-UP with your student again to solidify his or her resolve to obtain appropriate help and to demonstrate your commitment to assist them in this process. Check later to see that the referral appointment was kept and to hear how it went. Provide support while your student takes further appropriate action or pursue another referral if needed.

Top 10 Things a Parent Can Do to Promote Student Success in College


Call them often. Show you’re interested in their success. Expect some moodiness, homesickness or stress reactions, and monitor how those feelings seem to affect their happiness or their ability to function as a student. Monitor their progress, but also give them some room to develop skills on their own. Try not to rescue them from every discomfort, because they need to learn how to solve problems and talk to other adults for themselves. If the discomfort is so great, however, that they cannot function, then they are in need of further assistance.

  1. Do everything you can to make sure they go to class. Going to class is strongly associated with success. Ask.
  2. Find out what classes your student is taking, and ask now and then about each one. Make sure they can tell you what’s going on in each class. It matters.
  3. If at all possible, come to campus and visit at least once after school starts. And don’t just go to the game – check out your student’s room, meet their friends, and find out about how they spend their time.
  4. Make sure your student knows that you’re interested in their grades. Go over their grades in person.
  5. Talk about, and set, expectations. College is a big investment for any family; make it pay off.
  6. Also expect them to take on more responsibilities as they grow.
  7. Remember – and talk with your student about this – that the first 10-12 weeks of school are a stressful, high-risk time. Many students establish their patterns of use of alcohol during those weeks. It is during these difficult weeks of transition that too many students on all campuses experience violence.
  8. Have a conversation – several times – with your student about drinking. Talk about what they expect to happen when they get to campus – and, later, about what actually did.
  9. Encourage your student to get involved in student organizations, recreational sports, and campus events.
  10. Beware of credit cards! Credit card companies target students, and too many students accumulate unmanageable levels of debt and experience disruptive stress because of the competing demands of academic achievement and financial obligations. Don’t assume that a student who hasn’t asked for money recently isn’t having financial problems.

Supporting Your Student While They Learn


The college years can be exciting and stressful for both you and your child. They are exciting because your child will be learning to live independently and this allows both of you to explore other parts of your lives. They are stressful because this means that your relationship will change. Some find this process enjoyable; others do not. In order for this transition to be as productive as possible, you will need to be patient, understanding, supportive, and clear and reasonable about your expectations. Listed below are some tips you might find helpful during this process.

Tip #1: Don’t ask them if they are homesick. While it is true that many students miss being at home, most are so busy in the first weeks of school that they do just fine, as long as nothing reminds them about being away from home. Even if they never bring it up, you can rest assured that they do miss you. If your student is really homesick, encourage them to stick it out for one semester.

Tip #2: Write, even if they don’t write back. Your student will be exploring and enjoying their independence and this is necessary for their development. Even so, they want to keep family ties and the security that brings. It’s nice for them to have things in the mailbox and depressing when it is empty. Still, they may not respond for some time. Don’t interpret their silence as rejection.

Tip #3: Ask questions (but not too many). First-year students tend to resent interference with their newfound lifestyle, but most want to know that someone is still interested in them. Parental curiosity can be experienced as supportive or alienating depending on the attitudes of the person involved. Honest inquiries that further the parent bond are welcomed. “Pulling rank”, “I have a right to know” questions, and hidden agendas should be avoided.

Tip #4: Expect change (but not too much). It is natural and inevitable that your student will change over the course of their time here. For some, this change is gradual. For others it is quick and dramatic. This can be quite stressful for all involved. It helps to remember that young adults should be forming their own identities, and that it is counterproductive to try and stop them from doing so. While you may never understand the changes in their social, vocational, and personal choices that may occur in college, it is within your power to accept them. Maturation can be a slow and painful learning process. Please be patient.

Tip #5: Don’t worry excessively about moody behavior. You might find parenting during the college years to be pretty thankless. Your student may sometimes feel overwhelmed with all that is happening, and they might turn to you in distress. But, you may rarely hear from them when things are going well. You are serving as a “touchstone” for your student, someone they can turn to when they feel the need. Regardless of what they might say, this is very valuable to them. If your student’s “bad mood” seems persistent and you have concerns about it, call the staff at the Counseling Center to discuss it further.

Tip # 6: Visit (but not too often). Whether they admit it or not, students usually appreciate a visit from their parents. This gives them a chance to connect to both of their “worlds” at once. “Surprise” visits are usually not appreciated because they can feel disrespectful. It is better to wait for planned visits, such as the Family Weekend opportunity.

Tip # 7: Avoid the “These are the best years of your life” speech. The college years are full of discovery, inspiration, good times and friends. But they are also marked by indecision, insecurity, disappointment, and mistakes. In all probability your student will learn that college is much more challenging, in every way, than they imagined. Parents who think that college students “have it made” and that they should always perform well and be worry-free are mistaken. Those that accept the highs and lows are providing the kind of support students need most.

Tip #8: Communicate your expectations and stay informed. It is entirely appropriate for you to expect reasonable outcomes for your investment. Attendance, decent grades, safe and healthy choices, and signs of increasing responsibility should be evident to you. Negotiate and discuss these with your student, then look for that evidence. If you don’t find it, increase your level of supervision.

Tip #9: Trust them. Finding oneself is a difficult enough process without feeling like the people whose opinions you respect most are second-guessing your own second-guessing. One mother wrote her son during his senior year: “I love you and want for you all the things that make you happiest; and I guess you, not I, are the one who knows best what those things are.”

If you’re smart you’ll believe it, mean it, and say it now.

(Adapted from the National Orientation Directors Association Books and Websites)

Recommended Reads


  • When Your Kid Goes to College: a Parent's Survival Guide by Carol Barkin
  • You're on Your Own (But I'm Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years by Helen E. Johnson
  • Been There, Should Have Done That II: More Tips for Making the Most of College by Suzette Tyler
  • She's Leaving Home—Letting Go as a Daughter Goes to College by Connie Jones
  • Give Them Wings by Carol Kuykendall
  • Empty Nest, Full Heart: The Journey from Home to College by Andrea Van Steerhouse
  • How to Survive and Thrive in an Empty Nest: Reclaiming Your Life When Your Children Have Grown by Jeanette C. Lauer
  • Almost Grown: Launching Your Child From High School to College by Patricia Pasick
  • Becoming a Wise Parent for Your Grown Child: How to Give Love and Support without Meddling by Betty Frain, Ph.D & Eileen M. Clegg
  • I'll Miss You Too: An Off-to-College Guide for Parents and Students by Margo E. Woodacre Bane & Stephanie Bane




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